By Anthony Cannatella
“Jesus Christ, in the same manner, enters into our own cave, meets us where we are, takes us by the hand, one by one, and leads us to the safety of His love. We never have to do it alone.”
It was truly a nightmare scenario. Images of a dark cavern lit up TV screens in every home, coffee shop and restaurant. As humanity watched with bated breath, the focus of the world turned to a remote jungle in the distant land of Thailand. Twelve boys and their coach were found alive after nine days without food or water. Finding them all alive was a miracle in itself. Pictures began to flood the news of the boys, some waving and smiling despite the dire situation. A sense of hope was instilled back into those who watched.
Quickly, all hope seemed to vanish. Reports of heavy rain, which would make it impossible to rescue the boys, began to emerge. Oxygen levels became dangerously low in the cramped quarters of the cave. Yet, the worst news, Navy Seal Saman Gunan perished while navigating the flooded maze of caves. For those watching on the outside, hope seemed to slip between our fingertips as diagrams of the flooded caves and weather reports controlled the news all day and night.
On Sunday morning, the first good news appeared. The first four boys had been successfully led out from the cave and were recovering in a hospital. The impossible feat stirred a new hope in the mission. Eight boys and their coach remained in the cave, but suddenly the possibility of rescue became a reality. The details of rescue began to be reported. The following morning four more had been rescued. Excitement, now along with hope, began to fill the hearts of man. “Just five more” we all thought, with our eyes glued to the television.
Waking up Tuesday morning to the news highlights stating “They’re All Out” and “Saved From The Cave” stirred hope and happiness in everyone around the globe. The impossible had been made possible and they were all saved.
Whether or not we want to admit it, we too are in a cave. Through sin, we have walked far away from God, deep into a cave, feeling stranded from all hope. The darkness of the cave can only be matched by the apparent darkness we feel within our hearts – feeling alone, abandoned and helpless. It is here, in this separation from God, where death and despair reside. “No one will come to save me,” we think to ourselves. The treacherous journey out of the cave, by breaking bad habits and turning away from sin, may seem more difficult than actually remaining in the cave. Perhaps the idea of ever getting out of the cave seems impossible.
The good news is that there is always hope. English writer G.K. Chesterton brilliantly writes: “In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.”
One by one, the boys were ushered out individually by two expert divers. Jesus Christ, in the same manner, enters into our own cave, meets us where we are, takes us by the hand, one by one, and leads us to the safety of His love. We never have to do it alone. Along with Christ, we have mentors, priests, spiritual directors, family and friends, who accompany us on our journey out of the cave into the light of the world.
Christ, through His love, gives us the strength and tools to get through it. Perhaps it is by swimming through the flooded channels out of the caves, we are baptized into a new life.
Once we are out, the work is not done. There are others still stuck in the cave, in their own personal hell, who need our help. We, having been in the cave before, are familiar with the despair and pain that is felt within that perilous darkness. We must go back into the cave with our hand extended and be willing to lead others out of the cave to the light. Just as we were rescued by the help of others, we too are called to lead others to Christ. This is our universal vocation.
Let us continue to pray for these 12 young boys and their coach for a speedy recovery to health and for the soul of Saman Gunan. Let us continue to pray for those whose souls remain in the cave and are waiting to be led out by Christ. May we always be a people of hope and constantly remember the words of our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “One who has hope lives differently.”